If you know me at all, you should have seen this coming. Anime Central is known as the largest anime convention in the midwest with over 30,000 attendees registered in 2016. Personally, it was also my first convention, and I’ve gone yearly since 2011. How does it stack up compared to the past?
Navigating the con floor was a nightmare.
Anime Central would have been much stronger if I just knew where I was going half the time. On the convention floor itself I noticed very few signs showing where I was in the dealers’ hall and artist alley versus how to exit or find a restroom. There was a secret exit in the back of the artist alley near the restroom, but was otherwise a 20 minute trek trying to find the exit.
Anime Central needs a way to direct people back to the exit of the floor. The easiest way is to find Crunchyroll’s booth by the hanging banner and finding the exit from there.
Is this always an issue with large conventions? Sure. At one point, the rooms become so large that you cannot even see the exit sign. However, this is the point at which the convention itself needs to predict and respond to this issue.
Remember how Crunchyroll’s giant banner leads you to the entrance? This is such a missed opportunity for branding at conventions. Every anime fan knows Crunchyroll as a head streaming service for shows as soon as they air. They should have embraced their appearance in the vendor’s hall as a landmark or gathering place to bring more people into their booth and looking at their upcoming products.
Even better, Crunchyroll could certainly use its space as a gateway to the entrance. Have attendees walk through their space as an entryway to the vendor’s hall with a large ceiling banner. No one will be lost and the convention can get a little revenue from Crunchyroll’s product placement right up front. I’m sure attendees wouldn’t mind if it meant finding their way a little faster.
We were starving the entire time.
Artist Eli Hoyt has been to conventions across the country – from Katsucon in Washington, D.C. to Anime Expo in Los Angeles. As a professional artist, he relies on anime conventions as his main source of income.
“It was like a food desert,” said Hoyt. “The closest restaurant was a Friday’s that was a ten minute drive away. If I didn’t have a friend driving, I would have been out of luck.”
Hoyt wasn’t alone in his concern for places to
eat, either. People claimed to wait in the line at Starbucks in the convention center was thirty minutes to an hour for one order. Additionally, the nearby cafe had only pizza or hot dogs for $8 each. There were food trucks outside, but the prices were similarly outrageous and the selection just as limited.
This is not the fault of the convention center or Anime Central. The baristas at Starbucks were likely completely overwhelmed. The cafe near the Hyatt added ramen to their menu to speed up lines and to appeal to the anime-loving audience. What’s the fix to the food desert?
It isn’t food trucks. The answer comes through as a complete rehaul of the convention.
Anime Central has outgrown the Donald E. Convention Center.
Otakon moved from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. for its 2017 convention. Although it saw a slight decrease in turnstiles, it was still a successful convention, even despite an accident in the artist’s alley.
Anime Central needs to follow suit. The Donald E. Convention Center works fine for a convention like Anime Midwest, which is much smaller and has ConSweet, a dedicated space for free food for attendees. When Anime Central is too large to provide snacks for all 30,000 in attendance, it becomes time to find a new center.
In my review of C2E2, I talked a little about the intimidation of McCormick Place. Still, C2E2 was very accessible for me as someone who lives in the Chicago area, where Donald E. Center is closer to the suburbs by the airport. Being downtown, McCormick Place would be a far better choice for Anime Central, which has now gotten to be the size of C2E2 and requires a downtown location like it.
Overall, while Anime Central holds a place dear to my heart, it’s time for a change in venue. This is the only way Anime Central can continue to grow.